How to get back into Pilates after recovering from an injury

Injuries do not have to be seen as a setback. That's something I learned from my injury. In fact, injuries make us become more precise.
Recovering from an Injury with Pilates

When you have an injury it can be frustrating to hear all the things you cannot do. And, there is also a lot of fear around an injury. Will I ever be the same again? How will this injury change my life? Whether you’re a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, the truth is that injuries affect our lives tremendously. It can be hard when you are injured to do simple things around your house. I had never had a major injury setback before, not until I went for a run and broke my leg.

I had been out for a run. Not unusual for me. I ran almost every day since I was 14 years old. On this day I was running home from my Pilates studio. I had a surprise break and wanted more coffee. I was two blocks from home, I had a simple misstep and boom! I was on the ground. It felt like my leg had been shoved like a pole inside me. I laid there for a moment in shock and a bit embarrassed. It was “rush hour” and a ton of people saw me fall.

I didn’t feel any pain from the fall. Well, aside from a bit of bruising setting in. I remember bending and straightening my knee and had no problems. So I went to stand up. And I couldn’t.

So many thoughts and fears rushed in.

As a Pilates teacher,  I had taught many clients who had many different injuries. Some happened because they picked up a suitcase wrong, others playing with their kids, and several injuries that happened over time as a result of poor movement patterns. I knew inside that this injury wouldn’t stop me. That Pilates could help me….

Pilates, used to be known as Contrology. Joseph Pilates was known as the person dancers would go to see to be “fixed.” There are stories about Romana Kryzanowska going to see Mr. Pilates for her ankle injury and he focused on everything but her ankle. And in his book, Caged Lion, John Steele recounts how he went to see Joseph Pilates for lower back issues and how Mr. Pilates didn’t focus on his back.

In Pilates, as you work your entire body to work together, it’s easy to avoid the injury, strengthen the rest of the body, and the weaker muscles will become strong. In time the aches, pains, injuries either go away or become incredibly manageable.

For my own recovery, I did everything I could with my fractured Tibial Plateau. I started the next day. And after 6 weeks of no weight-bearing, not only had my fractures healed 2 weeks early, but my body had maintained so much of its strength that recovery was faster than my doctors even anticipated.

Our bodies are susceptible to injury when there is weakness or tightness. If you are too flexible you’re as susceptible to injury as if you’re too tight. By focusing on the engagement of our muscles throughout the Pilates practice, you not only strengthen the body but you’re getting what science has shown to actually be the most beneficial stretch – active static stretching.

For example, when you are doing “Single Straight Leg Stretch” on the mat, you’re not focusing on how much you can pull the leg over your face. That would just be a static hamstring stretch. You would feel a bit of relief in your hamstring, but when you’re done working out, it will likely go back to its original tightness. Instead, you are pressing your leg into your hands as you pull on it. Thus activating the back of your leg while you stretch it.

If you have an injury or have recovered from one, but you know your body doesn’t move in the same way, Pilates is there for you. Pilates will meet you where you are. And instead of spot training the injury, it will work your body around it.

You will learn how to move your limbs from your center. And while that might not seem very impressive or necessary, picture yourself reaching up for a box of cereal on a shelf that is just a bit higher than your reach. You can reach up from your upper traps, overstretch your shoulder, lean to one side, and if you’re lucky only contort yourself long enough not to cramp up or sustain a shoulder injury. Or, you can reach your arm from your back, feel your legs reach down in order for you to lift up, and grab that box from a place of strength.

Injuries do not have to be seen as a setback. That’s something I learned from my injury. In fact, injuries make us become more precise. And, that’s exactly what happened to me. As I write this to you I’m stronger than I was before my injury and have no issues with it.

I know it’s because of Pilates.

Are you ready to strengthen what is weak, tighten what is loose and do life better?

xx~LL

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